Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pieces of Vintage

Since moving, I have come to acknowledge that this is a downsize. Our current house is smaller than what we had (which perhaps was two big for two people, other than when family or friends were staying).  And I have to face the fact that we need to reduce holdings.  Inspired to make a dent, I looked in the stacked up items stored in the spare room and considered what needs to go.

Practicality says I don't need 12 or more vintage quilts.  Surely 6 and a bit will do ?  Bravely, I started going through the stack of them to decide which should go.  It is a difficult task--they are all lovely and  unique vintage pieces.   I had started collecting them when I moved to Australia, maybe 2 years after coming here, most obtained online (mostly on eBay).  They are mostly 1920s - 1940s era American patchworks, all with hand quilting and many also hand pieced.  In fact, I used to have many more.   In the course of finding ones I really was after, there were a few extras or not-quite-what-I-was-after that got acquired.  So a couple years ago I let some of the least favorites go, selling them online.  But I still had over a dozen that came with us on our interstate move.
Rising Sun quilt, ca 1930s,
pattern by Hubert ver Mehren

How to choose which to keep and which not ?  I decided I would keep ones we would use and let others go.  This produced a small pile of 4 or 5 that should go.  I did a photo shoot of them, hanging each in sunshine on the clothes line, measuring them, and preparing to write a lovely story on each for its online auction.  I wanted to research and pin down the age of one, as I recalled it was made from a 1930s pattern and I believed it was made in that era.  But I wanted to find the original reference to confirm that, as such info would be good for the auction storyline.

close up of Rising Sun quilt 
That was the beginning of the end of this decluttering exercise !  I did find the reference I was seeking and also found an amazing repository of info on vintage and antique quilts called .  I found the pattern of the quilt, and learned it was a pattern very popular in the first half the 1930s, when I am pretty sure the one I have was made.  A pattern by Hubert ver Mehren called Rising Sun, a pieced medallion star motif quilt.  Kits and patterns were made in yellow, pink, blue, and lilac.  As you see here, this one has a pinks palette.  Apparently this pattern became very popular after someone who made this pattern quilt won a prize in a a Century of Progress Quilt contest at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.  I know I was supposed to put this in the storyline for its auction, but knowing all this, I could not bring myself to put it up for sale !!

Ocean Waves quilt, ca 1930s
And then the Go pile had another, one I really like, but that I did not ever use, because I thought it was a bit delicate.  So it has been stored away a long time, and only seen when I rearrange the pile.  It is probably from the 1930s too, judged by the fabrics it features.  It is a pattern I adore, called Ocean Waves, and it has hundred of tiny triangles stitched together, points matching so nicely.  And a cheerful colourway, a palette of yellows, reds, pinks and some jadey greens and aqua thrown in for good measure.  All completely done by hand and now has the softest hand to touch.  And so, in quite short order, once Rising Sun got moved from Go to Keep, so did Ocean Waves.

detail of Ocean Waves yellow, reds, and pinks quilt
I replaced Rising Sun and Ocean Waves in the Go pile with two others.  One is a perfect unused, unwashed Dresden Plate quilt with amazing hand quilting work on it, in a perfectly straight gridwork, around the feature plates.  And an old fave of mine...a pinwheel quilt in multi colours.  This one is vintage 1940s, hand pieced and hand quilted.   It is not as special as the others, from a vintage textile perspective.  And it has just escaped the Go to Auction pile in the past.  It got to stay because it is cheerful and sturdy, so it has been one of a few that gets used.  I was ready to let it go this time though.  Until I looked at its photos.  It photographed so well, reminding me why I like it.  I love pinwheel designs.  I always wanted a two colour one, like green and white, or red and white.  But I could not find one in the price and condition I sought.  I found this multi coloured one instead and kept going back to its cheerful lemon, blue, red, and pink pinwheel blocks.  In the end it got to stay too.
Close up of Multi colour Pinwheel quilt

Multi colour Pinwheel quilt, ca 1940s
I have others that stay as well.  My favourite nine patch with blocks set en pointe in green white and red, sporting mint green scalloped border.  An amazing pristine unused, unwashed hummingbird star quilt in every colour imaginable that won a first prize at a county fair (and somewhere, I have the ribbon, which was sent to me when I bought it).  A small sofa throw-size Ocean Waves in 1930s prints predominately sky blue and other  ice cream pastels.

So, my decluttering effort has only be partially successful this week.  But I am happy with the ones going and the ones staying.  Though even the ones going give me a twinge.  I hope their new home and owner like them as much as I do.  Meanwhile, I am looking for other decluttering "targets".  I want to keep this small collection of amazing quilts.

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